The Boys & Girls Club of Lynn is one of the oldest in the country, which means that for generations, it’s been a place where kids can have fun, make friends, and get a great start in life.
However, the club itself isn’t the only thing that’s old; so is the building, which is why the Boys & Girls Club of Lynn is undertaking an extensive, two-part renovation of its nearly 100-year-old building. The club just finished a $7 million renovation of its older facility, which was built in the 1920s. It’s also preparing for phase two of the project, which will revamp a newer section of the building, which was built in the 1940s.
The renovation has not only brought much-needed modernity to the physical space—from installing an elevator and making the building more accessible, to replacing the heating, plumbing, and communication systems, to making better use of the space—but also making it into what executive director Brian Theirrien calls a “full learning center,” complete with Wi-Fi, a computer lab, and much more.
“The majority of our children come from low-income, single-parent households,” Theirrien says, which can make the time after school while parents are working challenging for families to manage.
That’s why the Boys & Girls Club of Lynn has evolved so much from its “gym and swim” days of yesteryear, Theirrien says. Club members—there are about 1,500—get transportation to the club, a snack, and the chance to burn off some energy and make friends, as well as dinner, homework help, physical education, fitness challenges, mentoring, and more from staff and members of the community.
The roughly 500 kids who come through the club each day have three floors of amenities in the renovated space, including a teen center, where kids aged 13 to 18 can access help with career development and college prep, as well as a dance center, fitness center, lounge and gaming area, learning centers, and more.
Kids can not only play sports, but also get homework help, receive assistance on college or job applications, and even hear from guest speakers from the community, who might talk to the the kids about everything from how to get a job at Market Basket to what it’s like to open a small business.
“We bring in the guest speakers to show the young adults how they can achieve those goals,” Theirrien says.
For kids like Marjorie, a 17-year-old Lynn Tech student who has been going to the Boys & Girls Club of Lynn since seventh grade, being a club member allows her to hang out with friends, get her homework done, attend camp, use the computers, and be a mentor to the younger kids.
“I love camp. I’ve learned so many things at camp, and now I can be CIT,” she says. The Boys & Girls Club has also helped Marjorie improve her English, which is not her first language. “They helped me improve it with the writing and reading, and they really helped me,” she says.
And when Boys & Girls Club kids grow up, they often stay devoted, which is certainly the case for board member Stephen H. Hirsch. He was a club member, worked there as a teenager, and has kept in touch with many of his fellow members.
“It builds confidence, gave me a lot of opportunities,” he says. “There are a lot of relationships that are built through the club...I’ve actually done business with some of these people…there’s just so many lives touched by the club.”
The pandemic has driven that point home even more. When the schools closed and shifted to remote learning, the Boys & Girls Club shifted too. Instead of operating only after school, it became “a full learning center from 7:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.,” Theirrien says.
Working families needed a place for their children to be safe, mentored, and get breakfast, lunch, and a snack every day, and that’s what the club provided. Kids did their full remote learning and got to participate in traditional Boys & Girls Club activities after school.
“We’re here for the kids who need us the most,” Theirrien says. “During the pandemic, we saw the kids who needed us.” He adds serving kids in that way during the pandemic wouldn’t have been possible without the renovations.
Now, the club is preparing for phase two of the renovation. Joe Scianatico, the Club's board president, says he and the rest of the board hope to continue to provide a place for kids to have fun and get a good start, and the renovations are a way to do that even more effectively.
“What we wanted to accomplish was to give the kids the things they need to succeed after school, and also for them to have a space that they feel proud to go to and maybe sometimes, in some cases, plan for the future,” he says.
For more information, visit bgcl.org.